University of Leeds Campus
I am very lucky to be working with Sea-hwa Won from South Korea who is here in Leeds for three years undertaking a PhD in colour design. Her PhD is about …. well, I can’t tell you that yet because it might influence the answers you give to her on-line survey. She has just launched an on-line survey about colour and product design and it would be great if you would help her research by clicking on the link below and completing the survey. Later, when the survey is complete I will say something about what the research is about.
Click here to take the colour survey. It only takes a minute of your time and for that you will receive the warm glow of satisfaction that you have contributed to the advancement of colour science.
About six months ago I posted about popular car colours in Canada. Silver and grey were the most popular colours according to sales data with black not far behind. I think it would be a rather similar story in the UK. Certainly silvery grey has become very popular over the last 10 years or so. My own car is black. My last car was grey. White is not popular here – I heard that car salesman refer to the colour of second-hand white cars as “three-week white” because it takes three weeks longer to sell them than cars in other colours. Though I think the last few years has seen a slight increase in the popularity of white cars in the UK.
Anyway, according to The Color Association of the United States nine out of ten cars sold in South Korea are white, silver (grey) or black – a higher proportion for these three colours than in any other country. Apparently, white cars have the highest resale value; white is associated with families and therefore white cars are thought to have been owned by responsible family types like me and therefore will have been well maintained. (My car is definitely not well maintained.)
It’s very unusual to see a pink car in Korea – only a rebellious type would have such a car! The Wall Street Journal are currently reporting a story about such a non-conformant and feature on a Mr Park who bought a white sports car and had it painted pink. Whereas in France, the Citreon DS3 has just been launched with a fuchsia pink roof. There still remains a cultural difference where social pressure in the east urges people to fit in whereas in the west it is more about “look at me”. A japanese person once told me there is a proverb about the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.
Personally, I would love a pink car, though certainly not a Citreon. This story also reminds me that a web-based study suggests that the most frequently mis-spelled colour word in the English language is fuchsia – or is it fuschia?
Many studies have been carried out over the last century or so on colour preferences. These generally reveal some quite remarkable consistencies. For example, although there are individual differences, on average people tend to like cooler colours (blues and greens) more so than warmer colours. I have been conducting my own – just for fun – survey on these pages (see http://colourware.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/favourite-colour-poll/) for the last few months: I asked people which colour they would prefer out of green, brown, yellow, orange, black, red, pink, purple, white, grey, blue and other. So far 45% of respondents have selected blue or green.
Whether gender or cultural affect colour preferences is more controversial although many studies have indicated that they may. The most significant work I know of in this regard is that published in Current Biology (2007) by a team lead by Anya Hurlbert of Newcastle University that adds substantial weight to the idea that there are statistically significant differences in colour preferences between males and females. Hurlbert’s team found that females prefer redder blues (tending towards pinks and red) than males. It is also suggested that the gender differences result from biological rather than cultural factors. Perhaps evolution favoured females who were better able to discriminate between ripe and unripe fruit or who could better discriminate between colours of faces.
If you are interested in this you may like to take part in a new global colour survey being carried out by one of my PhD students. You can see the survey here – https://www.keysurvey.co.uk/survey/365495/1a02/
Many studies have been carried out over the last 50-100 years to look at which colours people like and which they don’t like. Although there is variability between individuals (not everyone likes the same colours) there is surprising consistency when the results of lots of different studies are compared. In short people like blues and greens and don’t like yellows and (to a lesser extent) reds. The hue parameter is probably the most important but brightness and colourfulness also affect colour preference. People tend to like brighter and more colourful colours than darker and less colourful ones. Just for fun, I have been running my own survey on this web site. You can still add your two-penneth worth if you like – please go to http://colourware.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/favourite-colour-poll/. Interestingly, my fun survey is also in broad agreement with all those previously published experiments. I found that people’s preferences were:
I am not sure what practical application there could be in knowing which colours are more popular. For example, my favourite colour is red but I probably wouldn’t want to buy a red coat. Though on average most people really like blue, this doesn’t mean it would be sensible to make a product blue without consideration of many other factors. In design, colour is almost always in context and that context makes all the difference in the world.
More interesting though is recent research I have read which proposes a reason why there is individual variation in colour preference. According to this idea, we like those colours that remind us of things that we like (we like blue skies and green grass). It could explain dark yellows and oranges are particularly unpopular; these colours are normally associated with some rather unsavoury things (dark orange is the colour of poo and dark yellow the colour of vomit). Further, if people have a strong affiliation with an idea/concept that is strongly associated with a colour, then they may have some preference bias towards that colour. It makes me think – I am a hug fan of Manchester United and red is my favourite colour; but do I like red because I like Manchester United or do I like Manchester United because I like red? I am too old to remember which came first.